On this date the British Empire abolished slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. It was a long time in coming. In fact, slavery was illegal in Britain itself from 1772 onward. I’m mostly interested in it because of the effect of the abolitionist movement in Britain on the Revolutionary war.
I find it constantly amazing to look at the lies I was told growing up. I’m a good example of the “whistleblower mentality.” Studies show that whistleblowers tend to be the true believers who find that they’ve been lied to. Growing up, I believed all that garbage about the United States standing up for democracy and all the myths about people founding America for freedom and how we had to break with Britain because of a lack of representation. (That last one is a hoot!)
None of this is to say that there wasn’t a lot of noble idealism that built the United States. But there was a lot of vileness that built it too. I’m fine with that. I just don’t like to be lied to. And I think it makes the nation worse. It is what allows Chris Christie to run his television commercials claiming that the nuclear deal will give Iran nuclear weapons and to generally dehumanize other countries.
As Dylan Matthews wrote last month, the American slave population was not in favor of independence. They understood that they would be better off under British rule. He also quoted Simon Schama as saying that the Revolutionary War was “first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery.” And the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 is a good symbol of that. It doesn’t mean that the Brits were great and we were horrible. But it does mean that slavery was far more important to our economy than it was to theirs. And so they stopped doing what everyone must have known was wrong.